Auntie SparkNotes: I Was Adopted Because of a Lie
I'm the centerpiece of my current family conflict. I'm the adopted child of my mom and dad, and I was told all fifteen years of my life that part of the reason they adopted me was because they had trouble conceiving their own child. However, after my parents had to visit their doctor for something, we all learned something new:
Back when my parents were still dating, they both wanted to raise a kid, but my mom didn't want to get pregnant while my dad wanted to conceive. So, my mom somehow got tubal ligation without my dad knowing and never told him about it, thus leading my dad to believe for years that one or both of them was simply infertile.
My parents have been fighting ever since this new info had come to light. This was also the first time I had ever seen my dad cry. He's not mad about never conceiving but rather so furious that my mom had lied to him and me for so long about this. And I've been spending some nights crying myself to sleep because I'm a byproduct of this lie.
I have no idea what to think of my mom now. She's otherwise a very sweet woman, and I can understand why she didn't want to get pregnant...but I wish she had just told the truth. Then again, if she had been truthful, my parents might've broken up, and I would still be in China today with possibly nobody to adopt me. My entire existence within the family is the root of what's tearing it apart. Part of me wants to leave or just somehow go away from everything, like with a bottle of pills or something. But then again, that might make my family more devastated. So no matter if I choose between existence or non-existence, I will only cause despair. Is there anything I can do to solve any of this?
Well, first things first: If that was an honest-to-god threat of self-harm at the end of your letter, you need to seek help right away from a responsive, qualified source—and not, for the love of everything, from the Auntie SparkNotes inbox that my editor only checks once every few weeks. And while I've said this periodically over the years, clearly it's time to say it again: please, you guys, don't send me suicide threats! Not because I don't care, but because your cry for help can end up getting lost entirely in all the hundreds of emails we get here at SparkNotes—and even if I do see it, it's usually weeks later, at which point I have a series of clothes-rending mini-meltdowns over the possibility that one of you might have hurt yourselves. For your own sake (not to mention the sake of not turning Auntie SparkNotes' hair prematurely gray), it's important that you reach out to someone who is there, and available, in real time. Here's a list of resources:
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Safe Place: 1-888-290-7233
National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264
The Trevor Project: 866-4-U-TREVOR
Self-injury helpline: 1-800-DON'T-CUT, http://www.selfinjury.com
To Write Love On Her Arms: http://www.TWLOHA.com
Self Injury Foundation Crisis Line: 1-800-334-HELP
Real Help for Teens (Christian-affiliated): 1-877-332-7333
Crisis Chat: http://crisischat.org
But with that out of the way, let's move on to the real issue here—which is not what you think it is, by the way. Because as devastated as you and your folks have been by the revelation of your mom's big lie, you are entirely wrong about your existence being the root of your family's problems. And if you don't understand why, then imagine for a moment that they had adopted someone else instead of you. Imagine that your place in this family was taken by a different little girl from China, or a little boy from Russia, or even a little dog from the local animal shelter. In this imagined scenario, when the truth about your mom's medical history comes out, what happens differently?
I'll give you a hint: Nothing. It's still a huge, earth-shattering revelation that rocks the foundations of their relationship—whether you're part of the family or not. It has nothing to do with you.
Which is why it's so awful and unfair that you even know about it, and also why, in an ideal world, you wouldn't. Not that I'm condemning your parents for that—maybe there's a reason it wasn't feasible for them to keep this private?—but this problem is not your fault and not yours to solve, which means the knowledge of it really shouldn't have been your burden to carry.
Unfortunately, you do know. And since un-learning the truth isn't an option, I think that leaves you with just one choice, albeit an uncomfortable one: to learn more.
That's why I'm going to suggest you talk to your parents, particularly your mom, about what a hard time you're having with this and how it's made you feel. You say you don't know what to think of her, and that makes sense; you know what she did, and you can understand theoretically why she didn't want to get pregnant, but her own perspective on what happened is a mystery, no? And while the story behind her choice is probably pretty messy (for your mom to sterilize herself without telling your father suggests that they had some serious trust and communication issues back in the day), it is a story you haven't heard, and one that should make it abundantly clear that what's happening now is not your fault. How could it be, when the decision that caused all this conflict was made years and years before you even entered their lives?
With that said, you must realize that understanding your place in this situation is a different thing from solving it. No matter what you learn, you're still just an innocent bystander to a disaster of someone else's creation; the best you can hope for is to be at peace with that, while your parents work their way through it. But when it comes to that, the best place to start is by understanding that your parents are human beings, with all the flaws and fallibilities and history that entails, and that whatever mistakes they've made in their relationship with each other, you are not one of those mistakes. You are not a byproduct of a lie. You are the child they chose out of love, because they couldn't have one of their own. That hasn't changed. You were wanted, and you are loved, however angry they might be at each other—and no matter what happens next.
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